Previous reports have firmly established that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not adequately prepare for Hurricane Maria and, in fact, the agency had fewer assets in place than they initially claimed in public.
Those reports apparently just scratched the surface. A new internal report from within the agency says FEMA removed the overwhelming majority and in some cases all of their assets just five days before Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s warehouse on Puerto Rico was full of supplies for an event just like Hurricane Maria: a quarter-million meals, 718,370 liters of water, 4,422 cots and 13,272 tarps.
But a new report says FEMA removed most of those supplies just days before Maria hit, sending them to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which had just been struck by Hurricane Irma. By Sept. 15, FEMA had taken out 90 percent of the bottled water, 61 percent of the meals and 100 percent of the tarps and cots from its warehouse. [...]
“In response to Hurricane Irma impacts, FEMA distributed more than 80 percent of its inventory for selected commodities from the Caribbean Distribution Center warehouse” in Puerto Rico, according to the report. “Hurricane Maria struck before supplies were replenished.”
I don't think anyone would suggest FEMA should not have responded to Hurricane Irma, but Hurricane Maria was not a surprise. It was seen coming literally a thousand miles away.
Any FEMA official who even glanced at a weather report five days before Hurricane Maria should have put 2-and-2 together and calculated that shipping 90 percent and 100 percent of your bottled water and tarps respectively off the island was not a good idea.
Frankly, it would be justified to wonder if they knew Hurricane Maria was coming and moved the supplies anyway because the response to Hurricane Irma was considered to be more politically pertinent.
That may actually be a very generous theory as there are worse possibilities.